Please help me help my parents to stop texting me about this.
July 17, 2012 7:51 AM   Subscribe

My parents were eating in a Cracker Barrel last night and saw this thing hanging on the wall. What the heck is it?

They're coming to visit me, and I'm pretty sure they expect me to come up with an answer by the time they get here tonight. Little do they know I have the power of the internets to help me.

It's really got them riled up. My mom has been texting me nonstop about it.

Image 1
Image 2
Image 3

Here's the info I have (via mom texts):
  • They asked the Cracker Barrel Staff. No one has any idea what it is, and they get asked about it all the time.
  • It's about 2'x3'.
  • Looks more decorative than utilitarian, but something purely decorative probably wouldn't have numbers on it like that.
  • Estimated weight (based on looking at it and speculative poking by my dad, who works with wood a lot) 20lbs.
  • The upper and bottom rectangles are open from the back and not solid.
  • The numbers are 1042 and 10 if that's not clear from the picture.

And that's all they know.

Any ideas?
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Casting pattern for a foundry?
posted by aramaic at 8:06 AM on July 17, 2012

Best answer: The angles look right for a pattern for sand casting.
posted by scruss at 8:19 AM on July 17, 2012

Best answer: Yup, it's a foundry pattern. I made those for a living for 9 years.
posted by jon1270 at 8:22 AM on July 17, 2012 [13 favorites]

Best answer: For verification -- or because you may be as amused as I was -- check out the comment here by shooter2 at 06-12-2004, 09:00 PM -- his answer to "What to do with alot of foundry patterns?" was

You might check with someone like Cracker Barrel resturant. They have stuff like this hanging on the walls for atmosphere.They might just take it all.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:28 AM on July 17, 2012 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Can anyone tell what it's a pattern *for*?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2012

Best answer: LM, I don't know what it is but I can tell you that only the middle third of it actually looks like the casting it was meant to produce -- the part with all the reinforcing ribs, and where the inside corners are rounded with leather fillets. The sharp-edged rectangular blocks at the top and bottom are "core prints," and make impressions in the sand into which other parts of the sand mold are placed. I believe the small round knobs on either side , which look like they're about an inch or so across, are also core prints; the finished casting would have holes in those places, not projections.
posted by jon1270 at 8:59 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Funny that even though the question appears to be correctly and fully answered, I still have no idea what it is.
posted by TonyRobots at 11:27 AM on July 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, awesome! And...still, wtf?

If anyone can figure out what this thing was for (or find a picture online of similar patterns--none of these look even close) that would be sweet.

posted by phunniemee at 11:35 AM on July 17, 2012

As an FYI, don't even (ever) bother asking anyone at the stores about the stuff on the walls. It's all done centrally, by archivists and store designers - they put together the entire location at a staging site, photograph and document the crap out of the results, and then ship the whole thing to the final site with complete instructions for the local crew. You'll have more luck calling corporate HQ (and I doubt that'll do much good, either.)
posted by SMPA at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Without a provenance I don't think you have much chance of figuring out exactly what it was supposed to cast, or what that casting was used for. Basically think in terms of large pieces of machinery or engine works, of which this is only one part. The impressions and protrusions are all meant to fit together with other parts. The two circular knobs, in particular, are probably meant to essentially be bolt-holes in the finished piece, and the central mouth is probably also something with a connecting function for something else that will be perpendicular.

I'm very tempted by the vague resemblance to the side frame of a railroad wheelset/truck/bogie, but it's probably too small for something like that. It may have a similar function, though, but for a stationary machine.

Here's an example of a completely abstract-looking piece cast for a steam engine's internals. Even knowing what it does helps you very little.
posted by dhartung at 1:34 PM on July 17, 2012

From the link SMPA posted:

"Every item is tagged for inventory purposes. Once the artifacts are selected, we take inventory of every piece and that record is kept on file. Many times stores and guests will call with questions about specific items. Through the bar code system, we can track down answers."
posted by massysett at 6:15 PM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If anyone can figure out what this thing was for (or find a picture online of similar patterns--none of these look even close)

Casting patterns are used for sand casting in foundries. Sand casting is a form of lost-mold casting, where the mold is destroyed making the parts. In this case, the mold material -- sand, with a little clay and water, is reused.

First, you build up one side of the pattern. You put a frame around it, called a "flask", then tamp in slight damp sand with a bit of clay. One of the arts of this process is getting the sand just moist enough to bind, but not so moist than steam damages the parts. Another art is tamping in the sand to closely follow the pattern and fill any voids. The first side is usually the cope -- the top half of the mold.

Once the sand -- called "green" sand, because it's damp, like "green" woo -- is tamped in, you remove the pattern. You now have half the mold.

Then, you may need to insert cores, if there are going to be any large voids in the part -- any space that doesn't need metal after the casting needs to have sand there. Then, with a second pattern, you put a matching flask around it and build up the drag, which is the lower half of the mold. You remove that pattern, and stack the cope onto the drag and lock them together.

This is your mold. You pour metal into the mold, and when cool, you break the now hard part out of the sand.

So, if this is a casting pattern, this part of the shape of the part. It looks kind of like a baseplate for a machine, with two wide rails, connected by a recessed web, with a hole in the middle of the plate -- sort of like a vertical milling machine base. Of course, this would only be *half* the shape, unless the other side of this mold was just flat. The bits of wood on the right and left, that seem to form "pockets" on the sides, look like they're vents. They allow the air to escape as the mold fills. Some metal will enter those spaces.

Casting operations like this are rough operations, there are finishing steps. Indeed, it is quite common to cast multiple parts at ones. They'll be connected by sprues to allow the metal to reach all the cavities. There will be some vent marks, and some flash where metal seeped out of the join, these are cleaned up when the parts are cut off the sprue and the surfaces are finished out in later machining processes.
posted by eriko at 6:50 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I found this neat book about the process, and a link to that along with "wooden casting mold" was enough to appease them. Thanks, guys!
posted by phunniemee at 8:27 AM on July 18, 2012

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